Policy Briefs & Reports

Smart Cities: Promoting Urban Governance in India

December 8, 2023

Recognising the role of cities as catalysts for economic progress, India has placed technology adoption at the heart of governance transformations via its Smart Cities Mission (SCM). Moreover, India’s adoption of smart city solutions has been unique in also responding to the country’s diverse urban contexts and specific urban governance challenges, which this report focuses on capturing.

By allowing cities’ choice to interpret ‘smartness’ as per local needs and contexts, the SCM has encouraged cities to have diverse and, in several instances, more resident-centric project portfolios. Bringing in innovative institutional mechanisms, for instance the special purpose vehicle, has afforded localised decision-making flexibility and power to implement projects quickly and efficiently, though concerns about the sustainability of these institutional interventions remain. Lastly, the adoption of data-driven technology and infrastructure across smart cities has not only enhanced service delivery and emergency response but also provided an avenue to improve interdepartmental coordination.

Particularly encouraging is the first-time data-based urban transformations unfolding in the mid-sized cities. Improved governance in this fast-growing segment of the Indian urban landscape is expected to yield multiple positive spillovers for economic growth and social cohesion.

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